September 11, 2001
Never Forget the Innocent, Never Forget the Brave, Never Forget Those We Lost
Today is the 12th Anniversary of 9/11. Twelve years ago today I was at work in Reston Virginia. Our building was on a single road business complex on the edge of town. Behind our building sat large homes with rolling hills, horse fields and lush yards. It was a beautiful and peaceful view. At the end of the road deeper into the complex we knew were government agency buildings.
Being a small office complex, people got to know each other during morning runs, lunch time walks, or the bi-weekly soccer games that seemed to gather in the large empty lot across the street from our building. We knew who the government people were, generally what they did and which agency they worked for. My company held two office buildings in the park and throughout my career I worked in both buildings.
In the late ’90s the agency building across the street from us had a bomb scare. It was in the dead of winter and exceedingly cold outside. My boss and I came off the elevator from a meeting upstairs and noticed all these people standing outside freezing to death.
My boss was in senior management so when I said we should invite them into our lobby and out of the cold, he had the authority to make it happen. My team gathered coffee and fixin’s from the pantry on every floor of our building and tried to take care of our “guests” while their building was being cleared. About 10 minutes before they received the “all clear” to return, it started to snow. A heavy cold snow that turned into a blizzard later that afternoon. It was a small gesture on our part. But it meant a lot to them.
Our company and their agency became friends and we were recognized for our kindness by their agency leaders. We knew these people. We respected these people. We cared about these people and what they did and do for our country. We became friends and that meant, we took care of each other from that time forward. That’s what communities do.
One of my team members and I became close friends working together. We lived near each other and had some distance to travel to get to and from work. We car-pooled for that long drive and that meant early morning starts to beat the traffic that made the long drive even longer. We had already been at work for a couple of hours before the news began to trickle in about the 9/11 attacks. It wasn’t long before everyone in our building heard about the first plane hitting Tower 1. Those with radios began scrolling through the dial to find news so others could hear.
Growing up outside Washington DC, everyone knows someone who works for the government or at the very least works for a government contractor. It’s a big place, but it’s a small community around the Capital Beltway. So when word spread about the attack on the Pentagon, the seriousness of the day became more concerning. Who did we know that works there and were they ok?
Sadly two of the military people I knew weren’t ok. And we learned the day after the tragedy that one of our co-workers was in one of the towers at a financial conference. He didn’t make it home either.
As the news spread on 9/11 the government agencies in our area shut down and sent their people home. No one knew how wide spread the attacks were or if there were more to come. So people were evacuated for their own safety. Because of our proximity to these government agencies, we too were sent home. Our little road was clogged as the entire business complex seemed to be shutting down. Over 8,000 people were leaving the park and heading out on this half-mile road to the main road out of town.
It took hours simply to get out of Reston, much less get to a highway that would lead us home, 72 miles away. On that day we discovered more government buildings than we realized were in our area. How did we discover them? The big burly guards standing at the entrance ways with very large menacing looking machine guns was a big clue. The sight did make you feel a little nervous and we couldn’t wait to get out of town into the country where things were a little more quiet and peaceful. Well quiet at least.
It took a long time to get home that day. Nearly double the usual time. The highways were jammed packed. They’re pretty clogged around here anyway, but the typical commute in and out of town is spread out over a 5 hour period. On this day, it was all within 2 hours. Even the side roads and back roads we knew to take were crowded more than usual. It all made the day more emotional and significantly memorable. Not that we needed help with that.
By the time my girlfriend and I made it to our neighborhood, both towers were down, the plane in Pennsylvania was connected to the attack and we had already heard about the Pentagon before we left Northern Virginia. Like everyone else, when we got home the TV went on and we were glued to the coverage. Phone in hand trying to find out if those we knew were ok. Hours of calls to family and close friends. Hours of calls coming in, “have you heard from this person, or do know if that person got out”?
One of the hardest calls I received was from the sister of one of my friends in the Pentagon, calling to tell me they couldn’t get hold of him. It’s the one time in my life I really hated being known as a psychic. It’s one thing to take a call from someone asking for help to find their lost dog. It’s an other to take a call on this day from someone asking “can you ‘see’ him? Is he ok?” Even though my gut instinct said no, I couldn’t face the possibility of saying that. I kept thinking the emotion of the day was so overwhelming, how could I be sure it was her brother I was picking up on and not the thousands of others who weren’t ok? It’s hard telling someone you can’t help them, when you know they’re so desperate for news that they called a psychic to begin with.
I’m often torn about this day now. None of us old enough to remember the terror of 9/11 will forget where we were, what we saw, heard and felt throughout the day and the days after. We honor those we lost. We honor those who fought in the war that resulted from the attack, and those lost in that war. Or wars depending on how you look at it.
The torn part comes from the idea of healing and letting go. Many still grieve on this day, marking it with solemn ceremonies and remembrances. Politicians make their speeches. Families lay flowers and shed tears. Friends place their hand over their hearts and swear never to forget the ones they lost.
Some have come to accept their loss and have moved on, wondering why we as a nation or community give energy to the horror of the terror of the day, the death and destruction, and the fear it brings up each year. Instead they choose to honor the lives that were led and putting energy toward the good memories and the fun times. Or still yet, try to let go of all the loss and grief all together in order not to give energy or affirmation to the hate and intolerance that created the tragedies of the day to begin with.
I can see all sides and understand the emotions of these perspectives. For some it is a time to let go and move on. For others, the event struck so deeply that it’s not so easy to turn the switch to end the grieving.
What I try to remind people is:
Everyone deals with grief in their own way and heal at their own pace and in their own time. Loss, especially loss through violence, affects everyone differently. As survivors it’s important for us to remember this day with compassion, because there are many who still grieve and still relive this day in their dreams. It’s not our place to say there has been enough time to grieve, it’s time to let go and move on. It’s not our place to tell another their loss isn’t going to heal if they don’t “get over it”.
One of my clients is a 24 year old who graduated from college this past summer. She was 12 when she lost her father in the 2nd tower. Her graduation day was a very tough day for her, because her Dad wasn’t there to celebrate her accomplishments with her and her mother. And today, on this anniversary of 9/11, she feels the pain and loss so much deeper than she has ever felt in her young life. The event still impacts people on various levels and in many different ways. It’s not simply an event that happened 12 years ago. It’s an event that continues to impact people as they live their lives and move forward into new experiences.
As citizens of the world, and especially as Americans, this day should be one that’s filled with compassion and kindness. No matter how many anniversaries come and go to commemorate the event, take time to show compassion for those in your life or in your community who still grieve and who still feel the loss of those they loved and knew.
Everyone here at Spring’s Haven express our prayers and thoughts to everyone impacted by the events twelve years go. And we honor all the men and women of our armed forces, as well as, the citizens who fill a post in our government. May you all be blessed with compassion and strength on this day and every day.
~ Springwolf 🐾
© 2013 Springwolf, D.D., Ph.D. Springwolf Reflections / Springs Haven, LLC. All Rights Reserved.